Max Payne is a hardened introvert on the mirror's edge of reality; a substance abuser who has nothing to lose and nothing to live for, but somehow finds the strength and inner will to continue on. We were first introduced to him in 2001, as a renegade Drug Enforcement Association agent and an ex-cop, who's wife and newborn daughter were brutally murdered in their New York City apartment by a trio of junkies strung out on a new designer drug called 'Valkyr.' We bear witness to Max's emotional trauma and overall struggle as he tracks down the man responsible.
Two years later, we meet Max Payne again in the game's sequel, The Fall of Max Payne. It was met with favourable reviews, praise revolving around its story and gameplay, while the overall length of the game was criticised for being short; despite the criticism, the game earned several industry awards including Outstanding Art Direction at the Golden Satellite Awards 2004, and Editors' Choice Awards from GamePro, IGN, and GameSpy.
It's now 2012, and Rockstar Games has honoured us with another instalment in the Max Payne series, this time revolving around Max in a different atmosphere and feeling--Max has aged and he seems to have come to terms with the fact that he is indeed mortal. Max Payne is a vulnerable man; we all know it and now he's accepted it. Max Payne 3 takes place mostly in São Paulo, Brazil; Max now works in executive protection for the wealthy Rodrigo Branco in the hopes of escaping the memories of his troubled past.
Before one even can access the main menu, we're shown an introductory scene of Max going into his apartment in Brazil and narrating a bit of a monologue, giving us some insight to the inner workings of his mind. Afterward, the main menu appears and then gamers can choose what they'd like to do; Single Player, Arcade Mode, Multiplayer, or access the settings. For argument's sake, let's choose single player; no longer than but a moment into the game, we're thrust into fierce and intense cinematic action and as we soon find out, it's a non-stop thrill ride.
Max Payne 3 is without a doubt the most fun, addicting, and most beautiful games I've played since Mass Effect 3; I find myself unable to sit down and just play through the story because I end up craving the online multiplayer experience--both, however, are equally as amazing.
After picking up the game at the midnight launch last night, I started off with online multiplayer. I explored my options, customised my character and a few seconds after selecting the mode I wanted to play, I was thrown into a game lobby and a moment later, the round commenced. It's easy to pick up and play because the controls are quite simple and very fluid. Everything is brilliantly responsive and executed beautifully. Originally, I was quite concerned about the level of realism--where it's easy to be killed, I wondered how long it would take before it got annoying. It never did. True, about three well placed shots at a decent distance will kill you, but the respawning is practically instantaneous and you're brought back into the match as quickly as you can press the button - there's virtually no waiting, which if I do say so myself, is perfect.
Naturally, as it remains with any modern shooter with online multiplayer, you have your personalised arsenal loadouts, perks and abilities, and attachments. There's a vast arsenal of weapons and equipment to choose from and just as many perks and abilities, all functional to fit different play styles. As you level up your character, more weapons, equipment, and abilities are unlocked, and as you level up a certain weapon, attachments and the option to have a gold-plated version of it are unlocked as well. Levelling up is not a challenge or a chore, nor is it a breeze--it's a fair mixture of both. Experiencing the online multiplayer aspect is not to be missed.
In true Max Payne style, the main story immerses you in Max's world; you feel his pain, you experience his tragedy, and you even want to slap him a few times when he acts like a rain cloud and throws himself pity parties. As I said before, Max is vulnerable, and it shows. Max gets shot, you see the bullet wounds and the blood coming out of them. Have him run around and dive all over the place like a dehydrated sea mammal, he'll sweat. Drench him in water, you see the progression of his clothes drying. It's insane. It's this amount of realism, detail, and effort that keeps Rockstar Games a cut above the rest.
What I appreciate the most about the game, however, is the way Max and your online multiplayer character handles weapons. You can have up to three weapons at a time; two sidearms (consisting of either two pistols, two machine pistols, or a combination of either) and one primary weapon, whether it be an assault rifle, submachine gun, heavy rifle, shotgun, or sniper rifle. However, there are no back holsters that your primary weapon will magnetise to. You want to dual wield your two sidearms? You're going to have to drop your primary weapon to do so. There's no magic black hole of a holster hidden in your character's chest that can hold your rifle until you want to use it. Want to use just one sidearm? Your character will hold the primary weapon in their free hand and actually hold it under their arm when it's time to reload. It's proper brilliant realism in effect here.
Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge features make a triumphant return and are done in the best ways ever--when executing a Shoot Dodge, you can literally see Max as he builds the momentum to launch himself into the air, whether it be forward, backward, or sideways. What I love the most about it is the landing after the Shoot Dodge: regardless of how you land, whether it be after tumbling down a flight of stairs (which will affect your health, naturally), colliding with a wall, or sliding down a banister, Max lands in a prone stance, unless you move the left analogue stick. While prone, you may continue to open fire on your enemies, and should you move the right analogue stick around to aim, Max will roll accordingly, whether it be on his stomach, his sides, or his back, to adequately get a quality shot. Bullet Time works the same way, except when using it, the world around Max goes into slow motion, allowing you to duck out of cover for that difficult headshot, all while being able to see bullets travel, whether it be yours or the enemies--and of course, you may execute a Shoot Dodge manoeuvre while in Bullet Time.
Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge in multiplayer had me worried at first. Before I understood how it would work, I was quite cynical and initially, quite reluctant to play--boy, was I wrong. I should have known better from Rockstar Games. The way Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge is executed in multiplayer is proper good work. It's not annoying or is it tedious when other people are using it against or around you--it's actually quite beneficial.
Say you're in team deathmatch and you see your teammate go into Shoot Dodge just as an enemy comes into your view--as long as your teammate (that executed the Shoot Dodge) remains in your field of vision on the screen, the Bullet Time will remain in effect--and while anyone in your field of vision executes a Shoot Dodge, the world around you will be in slow motion for you as well, allowing you to use it to your advantage. It's a little tough to explain, but I can guarantee, you'll appreciate the way it functions in multiplayer.
Max Payne 3 is simply put, a brilliant game that should be a crime to ignore. Whether you're in it for the story, in it for the gameplay, or even just the online multiplayer (which should be a crime in itself)--regardless of your intentions, Max Payne 3 will entertain you for quite some time.
In addition, gamers might also want to pick up the collector's edition of the game; it comes with a 10" statuette of Max Payne, a digital download of the soundtrack, five beautiful photo stills that outline Max's troubled mind, free downloadable content to play as Mona Sax, Vladimir Lem, and four other characters from previous Max Payne games, and a keychain of a .45 calibre bullet. I'd say it's definitely worth the additional cost, especially for collectors and die hard Max Payne fans.